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Royal Naval Biography/Burton, Thomas

[Post-Captain of 1810.]

Second son of the late John Burton, Esq. who for many years held a responsible appointment under government, first in the victualling office, and latterly in the civil department of the navy; a gentlement of exemplary worth, and considerable literary acquirements.

Mr. Thomas Burton entered the navy, in Dec. 1792, as a midshipman on board the Hermione frigate, Captain John Hills, with whom he proceeded to Jamaica, at the commencement of, the French revolutionary war. The first services witnessed by him were the occupation of Jeremie, in St. Domingo, Sept. 20, 1793; and the capture of more than 1900 tons of French shipping, laden with colonial produce; two neutral vessels with cargoes, and one small armed schooner, at l’Islet and Bay des Flamands, on the 23d and 29th of the same month[1]. In the following year he assisted at the reduction of Port-au-Prince, on which occasion the Hermione had 5 men killed, and 6 wounded[2]. Her loss by fever, while subsequently co-operating with the British troops in their vain attempt to complete the subjugation of the French posts in St. Domingo, appears to have been very great, as was likewise that of the whole squadron employed in the same disastrous service.

After continuing about four years on the Jamaica station, Mr. Burton removed with Captain Hill’s successor, the present Vice-Admiral Stephens, into the Success of 32 guns, and returned to England under that officer’s command, in May 1797.

Immediately on his arrival, Mr. Burton joined the Scourge sloop. Captain Samuel Warren, then about to sail for the Leeward Islands, where he served in that vessel, and the Prince of Wales 93, flag-ship of the late Sir Henry Harvey, until promoted to be a Lieutenant of the Amphitrite frigate, Captain (now Rear-Admiral) Ekins, Jan. 1, 1799. On the 26th June following, he assisted at the capture of le Duquesne, French privateer brig, mounting 16 guns, with a complement of 129 men.

About this latter period. Lieutenant Burton became first of the Amphitrite, in which capacity he assisted at the capture of Surinam, and the destruction of a settlement on the Devil’s Islands, a noted rendezvous for the enemies’ privateers. The Amphitrite also formed part of the squadron under Rear-Admiral Duckworth at the occupation of the Danish and Swedish islands, in 1801[3].

The precarious state of Captain Ekins’s health, at this period, rendering a change of climate requisite, that excellent officer was sent with the naval despatches to England; and on his quitting the Amphitrite he recommended Lieutenant Burton in such high terms, as to induce Rear-Admiral Duckworth to give him the temporary command of her.

Lieutenant Burton’s next appointment was to the Southampton 32, of which frigate he likewise became for a short time acting commander, owing to the death of Captain John Miller Gamier. While in that ship he received the thanks of the Rear-Admiral for his active exertions and judicious conduct, by which she was saved from destruction, during a most violent gale at St. Martin’s.

In Nov. 1801 , Lieutenant Burton was removed to the Leviathan 74, and in her accompanied Sir John T. Duckworth to Jamaica, where he was promoted by that officer to the command of the Woolwich storeship, in Dec. 1802.

Being paid off on his return home, in the spring of 1803, Captain Burton remained unemployed from that time until May 1804, when he received a commission for the Romulus frigate, armed en flûte, then stationed as a block-ship on the coast of Essex, and afterwards sent with troops to the river Elbe. We subsequently find him commanding the Wildboar a 10-gun brig, employed on the Lisbon station; where he captured a French schooner, carrying some staff officers from Ferrol to Bayonne.

In Feb. 1810, being then on his return to the Tagus, after landing a military officer with despatches at Falmouth, Captain Burton had the misfortune to be wrecked on the Rundlestone rock, between Scilly and the Lands’-end; by which disaster 12 men perished. On the 23d of the following month, his conduct underwent the usual investigation; and the court-martial having declared that no blame was imputable to him, he was immediately afterwards ordered to commission the Primrose, a new brig of 18 guns: the whole of his officers and crew were likewise fully acquitted, except the Master, who was sentenced to be broke, and placed at the disposal of the Port-Admiral.

In the Primrose, Captain Burton was employed on the coasts of Norway and Jutland, until his promotion to post rank Oct. 21, 1810.

At the close of 1811, he received directions to fit out his old ship the Prince of Wales, intended for the flag of Admiral William Young, with whom he proceeded off the Scheldt, and continued till May, 1812.

In the autumn of 1814, Captain Burton took charge of the Nelson a first rate, just launched at Woolwich, and conducted her under jury-masts to Portsmouth, where he found a commission, dated Aug. 25, appointing him to the command of the Aquilon frigate; and from whence he immediately sailed for Gibraltar, with General Don and suite, passengers, and a fleet of merchantmen under his protection.

During the remainder of the war with America, Captain Burton was employed cruising along the coast of Portugal; and on the renewal of hostilities against France, in 1815, we find him serving under Lord Exmouth, on the Mediterranean station, where he continued until the commencement of 1816, when urgent private affairs obliged him to resign his command, and return across the continent to England.

Captain Burton married, Sept. 1814, Catharine Jones Crutchley, grand-daughter of the late Evan Jones, Esq. His eldest brother, Lieutenant John Burton, R.M. was drowned at the Nore, about 1795:– his younger brothers are, George Guy Burton, a Commander of 1814; and William Moulden Burton, Captain R.M. One of his sisters is married to Captain Samuel Warren, C.B.; another is the lady of Lieutenant-Colonel Long, R.M.

  1. See Vol. I, Part II, p. 505.
  2. See id. note † at p. 805 et seq.
  3. See id. p. 765, and note † at p. 798 et seq. N.B. The Amphitrite was commanded for a short time by Lieutenant Charles Marshall Gregory, “an officer of great merit and activity.”